Clean drinking water, broadband access, electric vehicles, and more to come, says the White House
Democrats rescued President Joe Biden’s faltering domestic agenda on Friday, passing a giant infrastructure package that is one of the pillars of his $3 trillion economic vision after rebel moderates had earlier blocked a vote on his social welfare expansion.
Despite hours of cajoling lawmakers, party leaders had risked seeing Mr. Biden’s two-pronged legislative strategy collapse as they failed to unite the party’s feuding progressive and moderate factions.
But the breakthrough came as lawmakers rubber-stamped the Senate-passed $1.2 trillion infrastructure Bill on the House floor by a comfortable 228 votes to 206.
The passage of the infrastructure spending marks a legacy-making achievement for Mr. Biden, amid plunging personal approval ratings and a humiliating upset defeat for his Democratic Party in the Virginia gubernatorial election.
His spokeswoman Jen Psaki said the success was “proof that delivering for the American people is worth all the painful sausage making”.
“Clean drinking water for kids, broadband access, electric vehicles, biggest investment in public transit. It’s happening. And more to come,” she tweeted.
Party leadership in the House of Representatives began the day aiming to rubber-stamp the infrastructure Bill, the biggest upgrade of roads, bridges and waterways in decades, after sending an even bigger social welfare deal, worth up to $1.85 trillion, to the upper chamber.
But six moderate Democrats refused to commit to the “Build Back Better” benefits package, arguing they first needed to see a full accounting of its economic impacts, which won’t be available for at least a week.
With a majority of just three votes in the House, Speaker Nancy Pelosi was forced to postpone the vote on the Build Back Better package, which includes major investments in health, education, tackling climate change and expanding social welfare programs.
Progressives initially blocked the infrastructure vote amid suspicion that Senate centrists would reject the Build Back Better Bill as soon as they got their transport upgrades signed into law.
But Ms. Pelosi refused to back down, insisting on the vote before the end of the day and offering an olive branch to the liberals — a procedural vote on the “rule” to at least get debate started on Build Back Better.
“I am urging all members to vote for both the rule for consideration of the Build Back Better Act and final passage of the Bipartisan Infrastructure Bill tonight,” Mr. Biden had said in a late evening statement.
“I am confident that during the week of November 15, the House will pass the Build Back Better Act.”
The victory will be a salve to Democratic leaders who have spent two days in meetings painstakingly trying to bring aboard holdouts over multiple sticking points in Build Back Better, from prescription drug pricing to immigration provisions.
Passing the infrastructure package into law required some tricky mathematics with several progressives, still smarting over the moderate rebellion, voting no — but Democrats were able to add 13 Republicans to their side of the ledger.